Author Peter Greene often read to his two children at bedtime. But one night, the bookshelf held nothing that enticed them. So, as he explains in the Acknowledgements to this book, he decided to tell them a story. The first words that came out of his mouth were: “Twelve-year-old Jonathan Moore lived in a three-sided wooden box at the end of a dark and filthy alley.” Thus was born the title character of The Adventures of Jonathan Moore, who Greene decided should be “as normal and as human as any real child,” whether in the nineteenth or the twenty-first century.
In England of the early 1800s, help for orphans was the duty of family or church. When twelve-year-old Jonathan Moore’s mother dies, and he hears nothing from his father, a Navy captain, he shuns appealing to either family or church. Thus, he finds himself homeless on the streets of London. Fortunately, he makes friends with a boy of similar age, Irish-born Sean Flagon. Together, the boys manage to sweep enough London chimneys to keep them from starving, until one rainy day when first Sean and then Jonathan are snatched by a group of men and soon find themselves in a cage strapped to a cart headed for the Chatham docks. They’ve been “pressed” into service on one of His Majesty’s warships, the Poseidon, which they soon discover isn’t such a bad lot at all.
The two boys look in awe at the rows of cannon (cannon being both singular and plural in England). And when shown to the closet of a room that is to be their new quarters, they realize that, though tiny, it’s dry, and there are rope hammocks to sleep in, wrapped in blankets. That certainly beats a leaky wooden box in an alley, with a piece of board for a cover. Better yet, they’re soon sitting at tables on the main deck, where hot fish stew is served for dinner (as it is most days, they soon learn), accompanied by hardtack or softtack (hard bread or rolls). The next morning Jonathan awakes to see huge white sails unfurled in the wind. The Poseidon is underway.
Much adventure and not a little danger await them, from one side of the North Atlantic to the other. After all, England is at war against France, and Napoleon Bonaparte has many fine French warships. One of them is the Danielle, which the Poseidon and her crew encounter more than as they make way from Lisbon to the Bahamas.
The aim of both these enemy warships is to search for an ancient Spanish treasure chest, which an equally ancient map indicates is buried on Skull Eye Island. On peaceful days at sea, there are lessons to be learned about being a seaman—taught aboard ship by experienced sailors, junior and senior officers, and even Captain Walker. The boys’ lessons also include fencing and swordsmanship, which stand in good stead when they must battle the French crew aboard the Danielle.
This thrilling tale of high adventure is not without an element of poignancy, however. Jonathan senses that several on board the Poseidon knew or know about his father, Captain Nathaniel Moore, who the boy had assumed was dead. They seemed to recognize him by name, and they treat him with more caring and respect than the other young boys, including his friend Sean. Yet, they consistently change the subject when he tries to question them.
Exciting and fast-moving as Warship Poseidon is, the tale is rendered even better by its author’s skill as a storyteller. Greene has thoroughly researched this era—including its shipbuilding, the administrative management of both English and French Navy vessels, the design of the warships themselves, and how their crews lived aboard them and battled from them. The story is presented in infinite detail, painted in vivid color, and written in a literary style. Much care has gone into the characters’ speech—emulating the language of the time while ensuring that it can be understood by its twenty-first-century readers, whether they be young or old—since this tale is one to be read with pleasure by all generations.
To Peter Greene we would say—in British parlance both then and now—”Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” So, have great fun reading Warship Poseidon and then proceed without delay to Books Two and Three: Castle of Fire and Paladin’s War. But don’t stop there! Mr. Greene declares there may be a prequel in the works as well as another type of series beginning!